Ashley Madison exec reportedly hacked a competitor

Ashley Madison founder Noel Biderman demonstrates his website on a tablet computer during an interview in Hong Kong August 28, 2013.

A new report alleges that Ashley Madison executives may have hacked a competing site a few years ago. Ironically, the revealing emails were found within a giant cache of data leaked as a result of a cyber attack on the network for adulterers.

In a blog post, security expert Brian Krebs details a series of emails from 2012 that seem to indicate Ashley Madison founder Raja Bhatia discovered and exploited vulnerabilities in nerve.com, a site that explores human sexuality and culture. At the time, Nerve was building an adult dating forum. In an email, Bhatia told his boss, Noel Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media (Ashley Madison’s parent company), that he was able to access nerve.com’s users and change account data. Here’s an excerpt from the Krebs security report:

“They did a very lousy job building their platform. I got their entire user base,” Bhatia told Biderman via email, including in the message a link to a GitHub archive with a sample of the database. “Also, I can turn any non paying user into a paying user, vice versa, compose messages between users, check unread stats, etc.”

Apparently, months after Bhatia breached nerve.com, Biderman met up with the company to talk about a potential partnership. It’s not clear whether Bhatia or Biderman ever disclosed the security gap to Nerve.

We have reached out to Ashley Madison and will update this post if and when it responds.


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Ashley Madison is still reeling from a July cyber attack from a group calling itself The Impact Team. With the tagline “Life is short. Have an affair,” Ashley Madison has amassed 40 million users by promising to facilitate discreet encounters — a promise it failed to deliver on.

The Impact Team has said they looted Ashley Madison’s servers because the service was not deleting users’ personal information even after those same users had paid for it to be erased.

When news of the hack first emerged, Ashley Madison executives were quick to dismiss its significance, saying that most claims by sites purporting to offer access to the leaked data were false. Since then, The Impact Team has released 30 gigabytes worth of data to the web, including user data and company information. In total, three years worth of email was leaked, running from January 2012 to July 7, 2015, according to Krebs.

The information about internal emails comes as Ashley Madison ramps up its efforts to bring the hackers that breached its site to justice. Earlier today, the company offered $380,000 for information leading to the arrest or prosecution of individuals related to the hack.

In the meantime, Ashley Madison users are shaken. Unconfirmed reports say a few people have taken their lives as a result of the hack.


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AOL acquires web development company Ashe Avenue

Ashe Avenue swag.

AOL has acquired Ashe Avenue, a company that has built web and mobile apps for AOL and other brands. Ashe Avenue cofounder and chief executive John McKinney announced the news in a letter on the company’s homepage today.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

“We will be directly responsible for the innovation and engineering powering many of AOL’s largest lifestyle verticals, including AOL.com (one of the top 50 most popular sites in the US, and one of the top 200 in the world),” McKinney wrote in the letter.

Other recent AOL acquisitions include predictive analytics startup Velos. But AOL itself was acquired earlier this year by telecommunications company Verizon.

Ashe Avenue started in 2007 and had offices in New York and Chapel Hill, N.C.

The company has worked on AOL properties like Kitchen Daily, Makers.com, and StyleList.

The company has worked with Vice, Asics, Lexus, Dell, Intel, Jansport, High Times, Red Robin, Wild Turkey, Levi’s, and Pepsi, in addition to AOL.

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Microsoft starts public test of Cortana app for Android smartphones

Microsoft now lets anyone with an Android phone try out its app that brings the virtual assistant from Windows 10 to a non-Microsoft platform; an iPhone version is expected to arrive later this year Android phone owners in the U.S. can now take Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana for a spin thanks to a new public beta test that opened today . Those interested in kicking Cortana's tires can sign up for the test and install the app from the Google Play Store.

What are they building in there? NextBit’s ex-Apple, Google, and HTC designers drop hints about mysterious new Android ‘cloud phone’

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 1.10.30 PM

Normally when some new phone maker startup pops its head up, we sigh and maybe feel a tinge of sympathy for another young company entering a brutally competitive business.

But NextBit has managed to drum up some real interest in media and mobile circles with its forthcoming phone, which it has called “the future of Android.”

Nobody has seen the device, which is scheduled to be unveiled September 1st. We don’t even really know if it will be shaped like a phone. It could be some kind of wearable, or come in component pieces. (I’ll be getting an early briefing on the hardware and software, but for now I know zilch.)


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Part of the reason for caring is that NextBit is founded by a couple of guys — CEO Tom Moss and CTO Mike Chan — who worked at Google on the Android team. Chan spent a few months at Apple. Product lead Scott Croyle worked at HTC. They’re pedigreed. So we assume they know what they’re doing and that they has some vision. Their idea was good enough to attract $18 million in funding from Google Ventures and Accel Partners.

In the absence of real information, NextBit has engaged in a social hint-dropping campaign to drum up and maintain interest in the product. And it’s worked. Here are some examples.

A new way of making phone calls?

A phone that learns as you use it?

They’re going to save Android?

Then there’s this little nugget tweeted by Croyles. If that’s the box the device comes in, it tells us something about the shape.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 2.14.46 PMNextbit launched in 2012 and started out by creating a syncing software called Baton. The software automatically backed up and synced apps and data to the cloud, and made files or application states immediately available on other registered devices. So users could continue doing on one device what they’d started on another.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 1.34.18 PM

  • CEO & cofounder, Tom Moss (ex Android 1.0 team, 3LM, Motorola, EIR at Accel)
  • CTO  & cofounder,  Mike Chan (ex Android 1.0 team, 3LM, Motorola, EIR at Accel)
  • Chief Product officer, Scott Croyle (ex-HTC where he headed up all of product design)

“Two years ago, we left Google because we became infatuated with the idea [of] the cloud as a foundational part of the device itself,” Moss told VentureBeat in an interview last year. He recalled that they then “hired some of our smartest colleagues” from Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, and other major tech firms.

“The device itself” will almost certainly be optimized to carry out all the sharing and syncing functions built into Baton. It may also use the cloud to store, and learn from, call and messaging data. I won’t even venture a guess on the form factor. Let’s just hope it’s something new and useful.

Check back here on September 1st for all the answers to the tantalizing questions Nextbit has raised.


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Redbooth launches a desktop app for Mac, Windows, and Linux

Redbooth's native app for Mac.

Redbooth, a company that sells software with task management, videoconferencing, and messaging features, is announcing today that it has built a new native desktop client for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Until now people were only able to use Redbooth in a web browser, or on iOS and Android.

Redbooth is beginning a four-week beta program for the new desktop client. The company will roll it out for all of its customers later.

The company chose to develop desktop apps to meet the needs of some of its large enterprise customers.


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“I hear from customers all the time that as we introduce more and more capabilities, like chat, workspace, and telephony, customers were saying, ‘It’s really critical when I turn on my machine in the morning, I just want it to be there,'” Redbooth chief executive Dan Schoenbaum told VentureBeat in an interview.

Slack, the growing and highly valued team communication app, has won favor for its desktop clients at a time when people are doing so much work in browser tabs. But Redbooth has more features than Slack. You can keep track of what you and your teammates need to do and hold high-definition video calls with multiple people, as well as chat with colleagues.

Of course, companies could pay for several tools — like Microsoft’s Lync and Cisco’s Jabber and WebEx — to replicate Redbooth’s functionality for their employees. But “you can save a ton of time consolidating into one,” Charles Studt, Redbooth’s vice president of marketing, told VentureBeat.

As is the case now in Redbooth’s web app, the desktop app updates in real time to show comments and messages from colleagues. And the application updates automatically — IT doesn’t need to handle that process. Desktop notifications help, too.

Plus, companies don’t need to worry about whether users’ browsers can support Redbooth, because now it can run outside of the browser.

Redbooth started in 2008 and is based in Redwood City, California. Customers include eBay, Nvidia, Spotify, and Volkswagen. The company announced an $11 million funding round last year.

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Hiring Software Juggernaut Greenhouse Swallows $35M Series C

Juggernaut “We’re not trying to be the all-singing, all-dancing HR system. I don’t know how to be kickass at payroll” says Greenhouse CEO Daniel Chait. But what his startup is kicking ass at is hiring software. It now has over 800 customers including Slack, Pinterest, and Magic Leap, almost double the 450 it had when it announces its $13.9 million Series B in March. That… Read More

To push, email, or post..and on what device? Getting an omnichannel strategy that works (webinar)

multichannel

Join us for this live webinar on Wednesday, August 26 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free

Mobile-first isn’t just a sound-bite mantra; today 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone, up from 58 percent in early 2014. If you’re targeting households with an annual income of $75,000 or more, smartphone ownership jumps to 84 percent. Similarly for young adults between 18 and 29, 85 percent own a smartphone.

As a result, companies are experiencing the shift to a mobile-first reality at lightening speed. Take Listia, for example, an online marketplace for selling stuff you don’t need and buying stuff you want using credits earned through the site. According to Founder and CEO Gee Chuang, even a year ago, Listia’s traffic was mostly web-based. Fast-forward to 2015, and most of their traffic is on their mobile app.

At the same time, the company still has considerable presence on the web, so reaching customers in the best way depending on their behavior is a priority.

That’s exactly why this webinar comes at a critical time for marketers who are racing to understand the best automation tools and strategies to reach consumers at the right time, and right place, on the right device. Omnichannel marketing is no longer an option.

Chaung points to a simple use case of a customer selling an item on Listia, and needing to know if someone has a question about it, or if it’s sold. “The challenge these days is not to overcommunicate these things,” says Chaung. “So we track if this person is mostly a web user or mostly a mobile user — so you’ll either get a push notification or an email.”


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That said, mobile has become a primary channel for much of LIstia’s commuication with customers — and, in some cases, the only one that makes sense. For example, if a customer has just been outbid on an item, Listia will send a push notification to reach the consumer quickly — there’s no gurantee they’re sitting in front of their computer.

On the marketing side of things, push notifications are relied on extensively. “We might remind you that you have 5,000 credits to use — and give you a suggestion where you can use them,” says Chuang.

“For example, if we see that a member is buying a lot of children’s clothes, we’ll send a message saying, ‘Maybe your kid has outgrown their clothes recently. If you want to earn some credits quickly, find some clothing that no longer fits your children and you can trade up for other things, like clothing, toys, or video games.'”

The mobile channel is also a great way to reach collectors — a very active user base on the company’s platform. A notification announcing that 10,000 new coins (or cards or stamps) were listed today gets great click-throughs.

But for Chuang, today’s success can be tomorrow’s failure — and the way to avoid that, he says, is through testing.

“One trap that a lot of people fall into is taking a month to set up all these automations and marketing messages and then next month you see a nice uplift — but you never really know if you could do much better unless you continually test.”

Listia continually tests types of messages as well as copy and timing, retaining those that not only deliver an obvious increase in usage — but also result in a decrease in the number of uninstalls or push notification opt-out’s. That last point is key for Chuang.

“You definitely don’t want to overpush to people, but if you do it right, and set a good pace, you get people to opt out less. And that’s when you know you’re doing it right.”

Join us for this not-to-be-missed webinar as we talk about how best to collect and utilize the data essential to an omnichannel approach, how to achieve a unified profile of the customer, and what kind of messaging is appropriate for different devices, on different platforms — all with the aim of maximizing ROI.

In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Why today’s marketing automation solutions fall short of customer expectations
  • How winning omnichannel marketing strategies balance push notifications, in-app messages, email, and social communications
  • Why understanding users on a person level, and not device level, is critical in mobile
    Why “Marketing” is evolving to “Communicating” and how to prepare for that transition

Speakers:

Doug Roberge, Strategic Services Consultant, Kahuna
Gee Chuang, CEO and Founder, Listia
Jon Cifuentes, Insight Analyst, VentureBeat


This webinar is sponsored by Kahuna.

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